VPN vs Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)

VPN vs RDP Remote Desktop Protocol

Looking for a way to access a computer or network remotely?

Remote access can allow users to access files and programs without actually being in the location of the network or computer. Two of the main ways you can achieve remote access is through a VPN or through RDP.

While both these protocols have similar uses, they allow different degrees of access. Mainly, a VPN allows access to a network, while RDP allows access to an actual computer.

If you want to know more about VPNs and RDP, then please read on.

What Is RDP? Is It Secure?

Remote Desktop Protocol, or RDP, is a protocol that allows you to access another computer remotely, over the internet. When using RDP it is literally as if you are sat at the computer you are accessing. This means you can use all the programs installed on the computer and view all of its files.

This is very different to a VPN which only allows access to the network, not a specific computer.

There are many different ways you can use RDP depending on your operating system but one of the original ways and simplest for many people is to simply use RDP through Windows. This comes with all recent versions of the Windows operating system and is fairly easy to set up.

There are a couple of downsides. Firstly, are the obvious security issues. While RDP connections are encrypted, this encryption is not to a high standard and it is susceptible to Man In The Middle attacks. If someone was able to hack into your connection, they would potentially have access to everything on your computer.

Because of this, it is incredibly important that you make sure your network is as secure as possible when using RDP. For example, you can do things such as:

  • Ensure your software is up-to-date
  • Use strong passwords
  • Use firewalls
  • Access RDP through a VPN

And What About VPNs?

VPNs have many uses but in this instance, we will be looking at their ability to remotely access a network securely. This can allow remote users to access devices and files installed on a network.

Essentially, what this means is that your computer is able to access the network as if your computer was literally in the office and connected to the office network.

The main use of this is to allow workers at a company to work remotely and allow them to have access to the same files and programs as if they were in the office. You could also replicate the same setup at home to use while you are away if you wanted to.

When using a VPN all traffic is encrypted which, assuming you are using one of the more secure protocols such as OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec, makes the connection very secure.

There are a couple of downsides too. VPNs use a lot more bandwidth than RDPs which means that the connection can be much slower.

As well as this, any file you access will have to have a corresponding program installed on your computer to open it. For example, if you need to access and work on a document, you will need to ensure that you have a word processor installed on the computer you are using to access the network.

While this isn’t a big problem as most offices that provide VPNs will also provide the other software that employees need to use, it is certainly worth thinking about.One other thing that you can do is combine both a VPN and an RDP. By connecting to a VPN first, when you connect to a remote desktop, you can increase security significantly.

RDP vs VPNs: In Conclusion

In conclusion, while both these products do similar things, their application is different. If you need to access a computer without having the programs installed on your own computer, then RDP is a good bet. However, it is unsecure and as such shouldn’t be done over the internet.

A much better option for remotely accessing a network over the internet would be a VPN. A VPN won’t allow you to access another computer as if you were actually there but if you just need to access programs on a network to help you work while out of office, then a VPN could be for you.

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